Let’s start this week by admitting that no one likes the idea of criticism. No one likes being criticized. It can shut people off. And if you are a Christian, unconditional love is what you have been taught. Criticism seems like the opposite of love. Right?

Not exactly. The same Apostle Paul who wrote “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13) also wrote to the same group “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).

The same Apostle Paul who wrote “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” also wrote to the same group “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

How do we understand these elements together? I would like to suggest a way. My wife is a math professor. She wants her students to understand math and succeed in their academic endeavors. If a student offers an answer to a math exercise, that answer is either correct or incorrect. There is no in between. If the student is correct she will affirm that. But if the student is incorrect, she will point out the error in their reasoning and show how to arrive at the correct answer.

Does anyone think that what my wife does in class is wrong to be critical of her student’s answer? Of course not. She has studied and mastered the material. She knows how to distinguish between correct and an incorrect answers and reasonings. She points out errors that are plain to anyone who knows the material and gives reasons for the correct answer.

Now translate that to spiritual matters. Much like the math question, there can only be one correct answer to certain spiritual questions. For example, either there is one God, many gods, or there are no gods. The things that we believe, no matter how sincerely we hold them, are either true or false. As apologists we study the evidence and reasons to distinguish correct answers from the incorrect ones.

As apologists we study the evidence and reasons to distinguish correct answers from the incorrect ones.

Does anyone think that what my wife does in class is mean? Well that depends, doesn’t it. Does she demean the student for having the wrong answer? Again, of course not. Her goal is not to make them feel bad for having the wrong answer. Rather she wants to help them understand math, learn from mistakes, and succeed. She gives them opportunities to understand their errors and correct them.

When we attempt to correct people about matters of faith, what is our attitude? Do we demean others because they don’t believe as we do? Or do we sincerely care for their correct understanding (and ours). Do we ask questions in an effort to gently point out an error in their thinking for their benefit and clear understanding? The Apostle Peter ends his command to always be ready with an apologetic by saying to do so with gentleness (1 Peter 3:15c) to others.

As people who have an answer for what we believe, we should seek to love people and destroy false arguments.

His warning to practice apologetics with gentleness assumes the dangers of criticism. I can tell you from experience that this is true. I have made many mistakes in my time as an apologist. But as people who have an answer for what we believe, we should seek to love people and destroy false arguments.

Your Friendly Neighborhood Apologist

Jason

Question: Have you ever experienced constructive criticism?

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